Lockheed Martin has finally begun delivery of the latest lot of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to the Pentagon after a roughly six-month delay.
The Pentagon has accepted delivery of three conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variants and one short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (Stovl) version, says Marillyn (spelling with two Ls) Hewson, the incoming chief operating officer of Lockheed Martin, F-35 prime contractor.
photo credit: Lockheed Martin
The low-rate-initial-production (LRIP) 3 aircraft were slated for delivery by the end of 2012. All 17 of the aircraft -- two F-35Bs for the UK; one F-35A for the Netherlands, 7 F-35As for the U.S. Air Force and seven F35Bs for the U.S. Marine Corps -- in this lot are off of the company’s Fort Worth assembly line. With the Dutch government in “caretaker status” in advanced of national elections, the socialist party has pushed the country to back off of its commitment to the F-35; however, a conservative win would likely reinstate support for the program. Thus, the commitment from the Netherlands remains unfirm.
The LRIP 3 aircraft had been awaiting official acceptance via the official “DD250” process managed by the Pentagon, says Vice Adm. David Venlet, the F-35 program executive officer.
The four new aircraft, which include the Block 2A software, will joint 12 already at Eglin AFB, Fla., Hewson says. The Block 2A software will feature a new multi-level security package.
Six of the F-35As at Eglin are being used for an operational utility assessment this summer; pilots will fly the aircraft to test out a rudimentary pilot training syllabus. The results of this assessment will determine whether the Air Force is comfortable giving the nod to start official pilot training. That is not expected to happen before 2013.